Face swapping explainer: What it is, how to do it and why you should care

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Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, face swapped
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BI Screenshot

Everyone takes selfies these days – but if you want your quick group shot to become something a little bit more memorable and terrifying, you should try face-swapping.

There are a number of different ways to do face-swapping, although most swaps you’ll see on the internet are from Snapchat’s new filter, introduced earlier this year.

In some ways, face swapping is the first experience most people have with augmented reality, or the ability for increasingly smart computers to modify an image of real life in real time.

Here are some of the most disturbing face swaps on the internet, as well as a few different ideas to help generate images that will haunt your dreams.


Perhaps the easiest way to start faceswapping is in Snapchat. If you’re not already familiar with Snapchat filters, here’s the easiest way to get started. Simply tap down on your face until a mesh overlay appears on it. That’s Snapchat’s facial recognition software working. It’ll look like this:

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Kif Leswing

Then, swipe left through all of Snapchat’s filters — some are pretty fun! — until you get to the end, which is the face swapping filter.

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Kif Leswing

Then, find a friend, or an inanimate object that kind of looks like a face, stand next to it and get swapping. Press the take photo button to capture a pic or hold down for video.

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Kif Leswing

Although Snapchat is most likely the easiest way to swap faces, considering it’s probably already installed on your phone, you do have other face swapping options, like Microsoft’s new Project Murphy, a Skypebot that superimposes your face on famous people or cartoons.

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Project Murphy

Here’s Bill Gates as Steve Jobs. Try it out here.


Using the software is the easy part, though. The next step is to have fun with it. Here are a few tricks:


If you’ve got friends with facial hair or a beard yourself, that will certainly kick your face swaps up a notch.


Face swapping doesn’t necessarily need to happen between two people. If you have a comic book or a record cover with a funny face it can create a really cool effect. Who wouldn’t want to look like David Bowie?


But when the algorithm can’t find a face, face swapping can become nightmare fuel.


Try it with magazines, record covers, and your laptop’s screen.


Push the software to its limits! Face swapping can also work great with inanimate objects, if they resemble a face at all. Like this cookie.

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Tumblr/Cutetaurusgirl

Turns out, you can face swap with pretty much anything you can draw a face on.


Although it can backfire.


And triple-check to make sure there aren’t random people in the shot.


Sometimes face swapping algorithms see faces where there aren’t any, like in the rim of a car.

I apologize for anynightmares I have induced.Also, notice my face subtly hiding on thewheel in the back.

I apologize for anynightmares I have induced.Also, notice my face subtly hiding on thewheel in the back.


Sometimes if you face swap famous duos, like Mulder and Scully from the X-Files, it reveals that the two look more similarly than you’d expect.


Take off your glasses first: sometimes Snapchat’s algorithms can’t deal with glasses, but other times it creates funky new frames.


It’s even more fun when you replace your face with another celebrity. Here’s Jay-Z and Beyonce.

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Kif Leswing

And it’s always fun to be able to face swap with your pets.